Ben Henderson hit the floor immediately after taking the full force of Anthony Pettis' side of the cage ninja kick. Photo by Ryan Malone

WEC 53: Pettis And Cruz Win Final WEC Event In Thrilling Fashion

Results of WEC 53 from Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, AZ.

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WEC 53 Aftermath: Matches That Need To Be Made

Caught in the warm, effervescent glow of the greatest final show any MMA promotion has ever put on, some are forgetting that this moment marks only the beginning. With the WEC being absorbed by the UFC, the potential for the quality of fights in 2011 has skyrocketed.

It will be interesting to see how the merger is handled. With such a deep talent pool already had at lightweight, the question is how many fighters will the UFC actually bring over. Still, a surplus of talented options isn't really the worst problem to face. For an organization that places a premium on fighters who aggressively bring the fight, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta must be overjoyed with the possibilities after witnessing the visual splendor that was WEC 53.

Here we take a look at which fighters will be brought over and the fights that need to happen once the new year begins.

Anthony Pettis vs. Winner of Frankie Edgar / Gray Maynard

This one is a given. Going into Thursday night, I was of the opinion that Ben Henderson presented a better stylistic chance against these two fighters than Pettis. The UFC lightweight division revolves around having a solid wrestling base, and Henderson surpasses Pettis in that aspect.

However, after what we witnessed in the main event, I don't think there is any way you can doubt the kid. Simply put, the Showtime Kick was one of the most incredible moments I have personally ever seen in MMA. If Pettis can pull that off in the most critical minute of his life, then who knows what he is capable of.

Both Maynard and Edgar would present significant challenges to the last WEC Lightweight champ -- Edgar with his movement, Maynard with his wrestling -- but after seeing such a spectacle, I am more convinced then ever that anyone always has a chance to shock the world in the sport of mixed martial arts.  

Dominick Cruz vs. Uriah Faber

This bout is going to happen eventually, probably sooner rather than later. Both men are calling for this fight, and it makes sense on paper. Uriah is still the biggest draw coming out of the WEC, and bantamweight has always seemed more fitting for the "California Kid", who was never a big featherweight to begin with. On the other side, Cruz gets a chance to redeem the lone loss on his record -- which was also attained fighting outside of his natural weight class -- and the opportunity to increase his draw considerably against a name opponent.

At the post-fight press conference Cruz vehemently campaigned for this fight to be made.

"It's a different fight [than the previous fight]. Completely." he said. "It's been three years, and that was my very first training camp. I was still working a full-time job. And now I can devote every ounce of energy into fighting to become the best fighter that I can. I just know that I'm a completely different fighter than I was then. My ground game is better. My wrestling is better. My stand-up is better. I have weapons everywhere. I just know I'm on another level than him."

Faber is already on board, and while there are always other options -- especially with Kid Yamamoto entering the picture -- it would certainly prove to be a profitable venture for the UFC's introduction to the bantamweight division.

Ben Henderson vs. Jim Miller

While Ben Henderson may have fallen victim to a highlight reel for the ages, the fact still remains that he is a dangerous matchup for anyone at 155. Being imported into UFC, it is likely that matchmaker Joe Silva won't to throw him straight to the wolves, instead electing to ease the transition for the MMA Lab product.

Jim Miller, fresh off an impressive victory over young phenom Charles Oliveira, is a game opponent that always comes ready to fight. Riding high on a six fight win streak, Miller is beginning to call for a title shot. While he may not be quite there yet, a matchup against Henderson would go a long way towards moving his name up the rankings.

If anything, this bout would be enormously entertaining, as these two men fight with similar high-energy, push-the-pace styles. It would be a welcome introduction to "Smooth" for any casual fan, and would continue Miller's climb up the lightweight ladder.

Donald Cerrone vs. Cole Miller

Why not? "Cowboy" has been calling out Miller for quite a long time, it seems. In the lead-up to WEC 53 Cerrone frequently showed disdain for his opponent, IFL veteran Chris Horodecki, speaking freely about the match he wanted once he entered the UFC. He repeated the sentiment to anyone that would listen after his submission victory on Thursday night.

"That's the fight I want." Cerrone explained. "That's the fight I've wanted once I [enter into] the UFC since I can remember. The Cole Miller fight is definitely who I'm chasing down."

He beat Leonard Garcia about three and a half years ago when I was there. I was no one then. I just had about five fights. And I remember Cole was kind of [cocky], and I said ‘Alright [expletive], I got you. I got you.'"

The fight actually makes sense, as Miller provides a good litmus test as to what "Cowboy" can bring to the UFC. With a record of 6-2 in the organization, "Magrinho" has done an excellent job weeding out the contenders from the pretenders. A win over a game opponent like Cerrone pushes Miller closer to title contention, while a win for Cerrone proves that he has what it takes to compete with the big boys.

Kamal Shalorus vs. Andre Winner

Despite a disappointing performance against Bart Palaszewski Thursday night, Shalorus managed to keep his undefeated record intact, likely securing his spot in the UFC's lightweight division. The unimpressive nature of the win, however, means that Shalorus will be forced to start at the very bottom of the ladder and slowly work his way up.

Winner, once a promising prospect in the division, has fallen on hard times of late, losing two consecutive bouts. One more and he may be given his walking papers. A win against a game Shalorus could right the Brit's ship, and send him back into the fray. Contrastingly, a win for Shalorus would go quite far in proving the he deserves to remain within the organization.

Regardless, this bout would result in fireworks, as both men would much rather stand and throw bombs then take the fight to the ground. The UFC loves action, and this contest would provide plenty of it.

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WEC 53: Anthony Pettis Explains The Showtime Kick

As the old saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. One minute left in an even fifth round of the most important fight of your life, tied two rounds to two rounds on the scorecards with your opponent -- how much more desperate of a situation can you ask for?

Anthony Pettis was christened with the nickname "Showtime" for the flashy nature of his fighting style. So, realistically, what else could have happened?

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"Showtime Kick. I call it the Showtime Kick." Pettis remarked after Thursday night's WEC event.

Busting out one of the craziest moves in MMA history to win the last WEC Lightweight Championship and No. 1 contender status in the UFC? That sounds right up Pettis' alley. The UFC lightweight division better prepare themselves for the new kid in school.

Pulling off something like that in training is one thing, but how does a professional fighter somehow find the balls to execute it in a title fight against world class competition? 

"The biggest thing going through my mind was: go for it." Pettis explained. "I kept thinking, ‘Man I've got to do something to land.' He was checking all my low kicks and I couldn't get off. He kept stopping with one or two punches, so I'm like, ‘I've got to do something out of the box and see what happens.'"

We practice it in camp, but to do it a title fight -- in the last round -- it's something different." Pettis continued. "Luckily for me, the kick landed, and it was an impressive kick."

Lost amongst the raucous nature of the closing moments of the WEC -- which, honestly, could not have been more fitting for an organization that has always prided itself for putting on the most exciting cards in the business -- was the fact that it came at the expense of one of the nicest men in MMA.

Ben Henderson, the man who championed Arizona's cause in order to get an event held here in Phoenix, was visibly shaken during the press conference, almost reaching the point of tears several times. Still, the former champion -- who certainly has a bright future in the UFC -- took everything in stride and even made light of the situation.

When asked if he had ever seen anything like it, Henderson quipped, "I saw it on Mortal Kombat once." He finished, "I don't really remember it. It was a great kick. It will probably be a highlight reel for a while, huh?"

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WEC 53: Fight Photos And Press Conference Audio

It was an amazing night of MMA in Glendale, AZ. What a final show from the WEC before it ended its nine-year run and merges into UFC control. Obviously, the fight of the night was the final bout between Henderson and Pettis with "The Kick" that will go down in MMA legend. It was a privilege to be cage-side for it.

Here's the press conference from after the event featuring WEC CEO Reed Harris along with the new WEC Lightweight Champ, Anthony Pettis; UFC/WEC Bantamweight Champ Dominick Cruz; Eddie Wineland; Donald "Cowbow" Cerrone; Kamal Shalorus; and Ben Henderson.

WEC 53 Press Conference Audio
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Obviously, the talk of the night was Pettis' kick late in Round 5. It was something he said he's practice and he knew at the time he needed to do something out of the box. He called it the "Showtime Kick". Our photographer, Ryan Malone, did fantastic work but unfortunately from his vantage point at the cage the angle was wrong to get a good photo. It happened basically immediately to his right so he was too close to get a good shot. Here's what he did get.

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Just because we didn't get The Picture of The Kick, doesn't mean we don't have a bunch of cool stuff to share. Take a look.

A few last notes, Ken Stone who was motionless for a long time and taken out of the cage on a backboard was reportedly doing fine and had been medically cleared. He was slammed by Eddie Wineland in an under card match. Most of the under card fights will be available on the UFC web site this weekend and the second best fight of the night -- Ivan Menjivar vs. Brad Pickett -- will on at Versus.com for free tomorrow.

Pettis vs. Henderson Gallery

Cruz vs. Jorgensen Gallery

Additional photos including Shalorus vs. Palaszweski and Cerrone vs. Horodecki. 

We will have more photos of the under card fights tomorrow along with additional post-event coverage.

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WEC 53: Showtime Anthony Pettis Flies To Victory Over Henderson

The main event is upon us. The last fight the WEC will ever hold. Lightweight belt on the line as hometown hero Benson Henderson squares off against Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. The crowd is raucous as Henderson enters the arena. Herb Dean is the referee. The two fighters circle each other early, Pettis with a bounce in his step. Henderson throws the first shot but nothing lands. Both men are taking their time, gauging the distance.

The crowd loudly chants "Ben! Ben! Ben!" as Henderson shoots in a nails Pettis with a right hand. Henderson clinches with Pettis, holding him against the cage. Pettis scrambles to get free, but Henderson trips the challenger to the ground and ends up on top. Pettis briefly attempts to grab an armbar but Henderson has none of it. Henderson backs out and Pettis stands up. Pettis lands a front kick that stumbles Henderson. Henderson rushes in and secures another takedown, standing and working from top as the round ends. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Henderson.

Round two begins and both fighters look fresh. Pettis throws a right hand but misses. Pettis lands a right hand square and Henderson hits the floor. Pettis tries to jump on the opportunity but Henderson works his way back to the feet. Henderson clinches with Pettis against the cage briefly, then lets it goes and backs away. Pettis throws a head kick but is blocked. Henderson closes the distance, scrambles, and clinches with Pettis against the cage. Henderson lands a few inside knees, and backs away. Henderson lands a solid kick to the midsection. Pettis attempts a flying knee in retaliation but misses. Pettis accidentally kicks Henderson in the man parts, and action is briefly stopped. Henderson throws another head kick that is barely blocked by Pettis. The round ends as both men circle the cage. Close round, could go either way. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Henderson.

Round three begins and the two fighters instantly engage. Henderson lands a few body kicks right into Pettis' ribs. Pettis closes the distance and trips up Henderson. Pettis scrambles and takes Henderson's back. Henderson stands but Pettis is hanging on. Henderson is resting against the cage, essentially carrying Pettis. The crowd rallies behind the hometown fighter, chanting "Ben! Ben!". Pettis is landing shots to Henderson's ribs from his position. Henderson grabs an arm but Pettis responds with a face shots to Henderson's face. Pettis looks up at the clock as he hangs on. Henderson relentlessly throws elbows against Pettis' thigh. As the round ends, Pettis releases his grip and attempts a head kick, but misses. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Pettis.

Round four begins and both fighters are cautious, throwing shots form a distance. Henderson rushes in and flurries. Henderson shoots in and takes Pettis to the ground. In the ensuing scramble, Henderson takes Pettis' back and sinks in a rear-naked choke. Somehow Pettis fights it off, works, and manages to reverse the position. Pettis takes Henderson's back as the hometown favorite stands and carries the pair to the side of the cage. They clinch briefly before releasing. Front kick from Henderson. Another kick but Pettis responds with a stiff shot to the head. Henderson shoots for a takedown, but Pettis stuffs the shot. Pettis grabs Henderson's neck and almost locks in a guillotine. It's not quite in and Henderson fights it off. The round ends as Pettis continues to try to tighten his grip. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Pettis.

Round five begins as the crowd erupts. Whoever wins this round wins the fight. Henderson flurries and shoots in but is stuffed. Pettis lands a stiff leg kick, but it grazes Henderson's crotch. Once the action resumes, Henderson lands a sharp body kick but eats a right hand from Pettis. Pettis shows off some Ali-style footwork. Henderson slips and falls but the two stand back up. Henderson shoots in for the takedown but Pettis sprawls. Henderson tries again and gets it this time. Shouts of "Smooth! Smooth! Smooth!" echo from the crowd. Henderson takes Pettis' back. Pettis rolls and reverses the position. Pettis stands up, Henderson follows suit.

One minute left and the round is still up for grabs. Pettis somehow lands a flying head kick off the cage that floors Henderson. Pettis smothers Henderson who is clearly stunned. Henderson stands and charges forward only to eat a knee that put him back on the floor as the round ends. Amazing final minute by Pettis. That kick was straight out of a kung-fu movie. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Pettis.

Official judges score the bout 48-47, 48-47, 49-46, and awards the unanimous decision to the new WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis.

 

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WEC 53: Cruz Dominates Jorgensen, Wins First UFC Bantamweight Belt

It is a historic night here in Phoenix with Dominick Cruz facing Scott Pettis. This fight is unique, as the winner walks away with not one, but two titles -- the WEC Bantamweight belt and the inaugural UFC Bantamweight belt. A spot in the pages of history on the line tonight as these two men make their way into the cage.

The crowd is fired up as the contestants touch gloves. The fighters circle the cage, gauging the distance. Cruz lands an early right hand jab. Jorgensen responds with a left hand. Cruz just nicks Jorgensen with a head kick. Cruz closes the distance, landing a nice combination. Another right hand from Cruz. And another. Jorgensen shoots the distance and presses Cruz up against the cage.

Cruz releases and the two back up to the center of the cage. Cruz lands two leg kicks in succession. Another leg kick followed by a stiff jab. Cruz unloads another combination, ending with an uppercut that just grazes Jorgensen. Cruz is throwing a ton at the challenger but nothing is landing flush. Jorgensen rushes in and clichés against the cage. Cruz pushes off the cage and a scramble ensues. Jorgensen takes Cruz down but Cruz reverses to end up on top as the round ends. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Cruz.

Round two begins and the two fighters instantly meet in the center of the cage. Jorgensen shoots in but the takedown is stuffed. Cruz lands a sharp jab before backing away. Cruz lands another jab, and another. Jorgensen can't seem to close the distance. Cruz is keeping his hands down, and showing fabulous head movement. Cruz shoots in and secures the takedown. Cruz hammers Jorgensen with the left hand, trying to free the right hand that Jorgensen has trapped. Jorgensen scrambles and gets his back up against the cage.

Two minutes remain as Cruz is staying busy from the top. Cruz lands two elbows to the top of Jorgensen's head. Jorgensen can't work himself free from Cruz's smothering wrestling. Jorgensen scrambles with thirty seconds left and manages to stand. Cruz lands a stiff shot against the cage but Jorgensen responds with a hard kick. The round ends as the two back away from the cage. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Cruz.

Round three begins and Cruz resumes where he left off, throwing a stiff jab in the face of Jorgensen. Another right hand sends Jorgensen to the floor but he instantly stands back up. Cruz is mixing up his shots and keeping Jorgensen at a distance. Cruz is dodging everything Jorgensen throws at him with superb head movement. Cruz unloads a combination on Jorgensen, the last shot landing flush.

Jorgensen throws a shot but Cruz dodges and lands a solid counter straight. Jorgensen rushes in but Cruz spins him off-balance and takes him down. Jorgensen sweeps and finds himself on top, before immediately standing up. Cruz misses a jab as the round ends. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Cruz.

We enter the championship rounds as the fourth round begins. Cruz lands a stiff right hand square on Jorgensen. Jorgensen rushes in but Cruz takes him right to the floor. The champ is controlling from the top. Jorgensen is unable to mount any defense. Jorgensen scrambles and the two end up back on their feet. Jorgensen closes the distance and clinches Cruz against the cage. Cruz reverses and releases Jorgensen. Jorgensen closes the distance again but Cruz takes him back down.

Cruz scrambles and almost gets Jorgensen's back before the two fighters stand back up. Cruz continues to mix up his shots; his head movement seeming to baffle Jorgensen. Cruz shoots in and secures another take down before the round ends. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Cruz.

Fifth and final round of this championship fight. Jorgensen needs to do something drastic. Cruz misses early with a head kick. Jorgensen is trying to push the pace but Cruz is avoiding everything thrown at him. Cruz lands a nice counter uppercut but Jorgensen moves forward. Cruz is keeping Jorgensen at a distance with sharp kicks and jabs. Cruz lands a nice combination as Jorgensen moves back. Cruz's hands are down and there is a notable bounce in his step. Jorgensen shoots and secures the takedown. Cruz stands back up and circles away. Cruz explodes in and secures yet another takedown.

Jorgensen just can't seem to deal with Cruz's wrestling. The crowd lustfully boos, upset that Cruz may be riding out a decision. Cruz is keeping busy from the top as the round nears its conclusion. Jorgensen scrambles and stands back up, only to eat a flying knee from Cruz. The two fighters have one last exchange as the final horn sounds. SB Nation Arizona scores the round 10-9 for Cruz.

Official judges score the bout 50-45, 50-45, 50-45, and award the unanimous decision to the new UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz.

 

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Ken Stone (135) Vs. Eddie Wineland (136)

Ken Stone, American Top Team product, takes on former champ Eddie Wineland in the next Bantamweight contest. Stone throws an early leg kick. Wineland returns the favor. The two are testing the distance with sporadic kicks. Wineland lands a hard combination. The two grapple and Stone latches onto to Wineland. Wineland is carrying Stone, who is holding onto Wineland's neck. He carries Stone to the side of the cage, waits a second, and viciously slams him down. Stone is out. Wineland lands a quick punch for good measure and the contest is stopped. The crowd is delirious. Eddie Wineland def. Ken Stone via Knockout (Slam) at 2:11 of the first round. 

Stone hasn't moved since the fight ended. The doctors strap him to a stretcher and carry him out. Hopefully everything is alright.

Note: This report is from Shaun. We are having all kinds of wireless internet problems but we are are still doing better than that Stone kid. Brutal. - sp

UPDATE: 

After the fight both Wineland and WEC CEO Reed Harris reported that Stone had been medically cleared and was back in his hotel room. Personally, I've never seen an athlete get knocked out for that long of a time and not end up in the hospital. He did not move the entire time he was being worked on or while they were carrying him out of the ring. It was at least five minutes and probably more.

This picture was right before the slam.

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This was the result.

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